Planned Obsolescence: A New Model for Academic Publishing

The Scholarly Monograph is in Trouble

This isn’t news to anyone who’s been paying much attention to the state of university presses and university libraries over the last decade or so, of course. Libraries, already struggling with the exponentially rising costs of journals, especially in the sciences, have had their budgets cut, and have had as a result to reduce drastically the numbers of monographs they purchase.

In fact, as Jennifer Crewe points out in Scholarly Publishing: Why Our Business Is Your Business, Too, sales of university press books to libraries in 2004 were less than a third of what they had been two decades prior— and that figure of course predates the latest round of budget crises. The impact of these reduced sales on presses has been devastating, particularly as it has come at the very same time that budget cuts have slashed or eliminated university subsidies to their presses, effectively requiring them to live for the bottom line. As a result, more and more presses are making more and more publication decisions based not on the objective quality of a submitted manuscript, but instead on the potential for book sales that the manuscript represents.

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